Add our water supply to the many dustups between Mayor Jerry Sanders and City Attorney Mike Aguirre. The two have been going back-and-forth recently about the best way to ensure the reliability of our water supply.

Aguirre has called for the city to declare a Stage 2 water alert, which would prompt some mandatory water conservation measures. He’s also called for the revival of plans to recycle the city’s treated sewage to supplement city reservoirs.

Sanders has said voluntary conservation measures are necessary, but that mandatory conservation isn’t needed now. He’s rejected the water recycling plan as too expensive.

In a meeting with reporters called by the Mayor’s Office today, Water Department Director Jim Barrett reiterated the voluntary message. If the coming winter provides average snow and rain, Barrett said the region could see a small water surplus next year — the result of water conservation. But if it is very dry, Barrett said the city may have a 4 percent to 6 percent shortage. His estimates were based on a report from the San Diego County Water Authority.

If the winter is dry, “I would like to think we could still manage this on a voluntary basis,” Barrett said.

The Water Department is examining the city’s municipal code to review the chapter on water alerts, Barrett said, because the current language is vague and not quantifiable.

It says a Stage 1 water alert will be declared “when the possibility exists” of a water shortage. “The possibility always exists,” Barrett said, “but it’s not always an emergency.”

A Stage 2 alert is declared “during periods when the probability exists” of a water shortage.

Bill Harris, a spokesman for Sanders, said the mayor will continue calling for increased conservation. Harris and Barrett both said they didn’t believe the public had responded to the conservation call yet, but said it was too soon to tell from water usage statistics.

“We’re having a responsible discussion,” Barrett said. “Admittedly, we will have a different conversation if things haven’t improved a year from now.”

The City Council is expected to talk about San Diego’s water supply when it meets Oct. 8.


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